4 Steps to Grow Your Strengths
Our natural inclination is to focus on negative feedback, or the things we do not do very well, over the positive. Unfortunately this dynamic is reinforced throughout schooling and our professional lives (and too often in our personal relationships as well). Organizational Behavior experts are now asking questions to challenge this way of thinking, as research indicates that a negative focus does not directly lead to positive growth and desired outcomes.
If we spend time and energy focusing on our relative weaknesses, or “areas for improvement,” all we’re doing is spending time on things we already know we don’t do very well, and therefore have little room to grow. Instead, why not spend our time and energy developing and nurturing our relative strengths? These are the things we do well, and therefore can do even better! We think of this much more constructive focus as playing to, or leveraging, our strengths.
The following guide takes you through 4 steps to help you reflect on and grow your personal strengths.
Step 1: Choose people in your personal and professional life to give you personal feedback. These individuals could be your spouse, former professors, neighbors, your child’s friend’s parents, your office staff or your patients. The idea is to be open to receiving feedback, whether it is what you expect or not, from multiple sources to help round out the picture. An example of how to go about this would be to inform select people that you are involved in a personal growth challenge or leadership development program, and you need each of these folks to email or tell you directly their experience of a time when you made an important contribution or added value. You might be surprised to hear about things you have said that were non-eventful for you, but made an impact on someone else. You also might be reminded of something you accomplished, which perhaps you look past or do not remember.
Step 2: Look for patterns in the feedback you have gathered. In this step you pull together feedback, examples or stories from others that speak to certain aspects (strengths) of yours. You may find confirmation of what you already know, or you might find yourself becoming illuminated to aspects of yourself you would not have thought of as relative strengths. Often this step causes people to challenge their doubts or insecurities. For instance, you might not know that people hear or even care about your input. Upon asking around, however, you may be surprised to hear people saying things back to you that you once said, in a very appreciative way! If you are able to gather feedback from patients, you might find that they appreciate some parts of your interaction with them that you take for granted, such as when you notice they’ve had a haircut or that they look well-rested. The nuances of an interaction that people hang onto and appreciate might shed light on something you do naturally and can choose to accentuate for even more positive results.
Step 3: Write down your “Best Self” Portrait. This step offers the chance to integrate and synthesize others’ feedback into your own words and way of viewing yourself. Take all the stories and feedback you have gathered and write a 3-4 paragraph prose (not bullet points!) composition beginning with: “When I am at my best, I…” In performing this exercise, and in doing so prose style, you will find connections becoming clear between some bits of feedback which might have previously seemed disjointed. Also, in taking the time to do this exercise thoroughly, you might begin to think of examples when you were not your best self and it may become quite clear why things did not go according to your plan in those instances.
Step 4: Rewrite your job description around your newly confirmed relative strengths. In this step, compare your current role and responsibilities to your “Best Self” Portrait. See which components correlate and which do not. Sift out the parts of your job which do not align with ‘you at your best’ and think about ways to delegate those to someone else, or at least downplay those, while you play up the parts that emphasize your strengths. By being your ‘best self’ more often, you will see more positive results and will therefore find your strengths being reinforced. If you have a great sense of humor, for example, you might find yourself being more comfortable using humor in your office interactions, and you might see your staff and patients seeming more at ease as a result. They themselves might begin using humor or levity, which may make the day move along more smoothly and positively.
This process takes effort and time, but it can be very impactful. Hopefully, playing to your strengths will reinforce itself and you will be more and more your ‘best self.’ The lessons gleaned from this exercise can elude you, or you may want to file it away for “another time.” Diligence and follow-through are a must. You might find it helpful to have a Leadership Coach keep you on task. Good luck, and I hope you enjoy your new-found familiarity with your strengths.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.orgForward this article to a friend
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